Saturday, January 1, 2011


Lord Krishna “An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.“ (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.22)

Intoxication brings temporary feelings of bliss, followed by unpleasant side effects. Sometimes the short bursts of good feelings are deemed palatable enough to endure the long lasting negative effects. After all, nothing else seems to bring escape from the rigors of material life, so if there is even a brief bit of relief, then the action is good enough to take up. There is one discipline, however, which brings natural highs, elongated feelings of bliss without any of the negative consequences. Not only are the unpalatable conditions removed, but at the time of death, the time when the individual’s consciousness is measured by higher authorities, the provided reward is unmatched in its splendor.

Why is intoxication harmful? Why is it considered one of the four primary sinful activities by followers of Vedic traditions? Supporters of intoxication will argue that their indulgences in adult beverage consumption and recreational drug use aren’t doing any harm to anyone. They are just trying to have fun after all, so why should anyone else raise objections? There is some validity in this argument, especially as it pertains to sense pleasures. If you take two groups of people, with one taking to ordinary sense gratification, and the other taking to intoxication, there really isn’t much of a difference between the overall effects of the two activities. Each side is simply looking for pleasure in the end, so the nature of how that pleasure is sought shouldn’t really be a cause of concern.

Beer But even on the platform of sense gratification, intoxication brings many unwanted and unintended side effects. Inebriation from excessive alcohol intake has too many negative side effects to count. First, there is the loss of motor skills, the lowering of inhibitions, and unpleasantries relating to health. A drunk person is more apt to vomit in places other than a bathroom. They are more likely to get into fisticuffs without cause, hurl insults at others, and even overeat. Drunk driving is also a major concern, as a motor vehicle can turn into a deadly weapon when operated improperly. Driving requires attentiveness and quick reaction time, two things which are greatly diminished in the intoxicated individual. There are also issues relating to overdoses. One can actually die from alcohol poisoning or from taking too much cocaine, heroin, or other narcotic.

It’s interesting to observe how these unpleasant issues are dealt with. There is the classic case of the drunk who gets so intoxicated that he swears he will never drink again. It takes just one night of constant vomiting or one day of an intense hangover to make a person question the soundness of getting drunk. Nevertheless, such promises are mostly empty, for the same person will likely take to intoxication again the next time they are in the mood for a good time or when they are feeling the pressures of life.

Even with all this established, credible, and readily perceptible evidence about the harmful effects of intoxication, the remedies for such problems hardly ever tackle the root issue. For example, even though drunk driving is such a major problem, the common solutions put forth to stop it deal only with driving, while neglecting drinking altogether. A designated driver is deemed the best solution for those wanting to drink without having to drive later on. Additionally, moderation and certain rules of precedence pertaining to wine and beer drinking are suggested so as to minimize illness. The humor lies in the fact that the suggestions are given to those who are contemplating intoxication, which, by definition, brings about a loss of rationality and cognitive thought. This means that any suggestions given to a sober person immediately get forgotten or pushed back to the dormant part of the consciousness once said person actually becomes intoxicated. You can suggest that a designated driver be assigned, but once a person is totally “bombed”, they won’t be able to think clearly in any way. Therefore there is nothing holding them back from stepping behind the wheel of a car.

Another way to tackle the problem of intoxication is to find other activities, those engagements which bring natural highs. These activities can include watching television, attending sporting events, reading books, etc. These “natural” options are generally ignored because the sense gratification they provide is subpar compared to the high achieved from intoxication. Getting drunk equates to an escape from the senses, a forgetfulness of reality. The precarious condition of material life can be summed up in two activities: hankering and lamenting. The mind is always either wanting something or distressing over the things which it doesn’t have. The inebriated state is one of ignorance wherein hankering and lamenting are minimized.

Lord Krishna For these reasons, intoxication continues to be a popular form of sense escape. There is one set of activities, however, which brings tremendous natural highs, feelings of bliss which far exceed those felt from intoxication. Not only are these feelings of joy superior, but there are absolutely zero negative side effects associated. The most ecstatic emotions can only be brought on by acts of devotion dedicated to the Supreme Lord. This discipline is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti brings spiritual pleasures, those feelings which don’t fade out and which don’t have negative consequences. Therefore sense pleasures automatically become subordinate to spiritual pleasures. Since bhakti-yoga is the only discipline which aims to acquire spiritual pleasures, it thus becomes the topmost discipline, the only set of activities worth adopting.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, the one who enlivens the senses of everyone by His personal bodily rays, resides in His transcendental abode, called Goloka. Yet He is present in every nook and corner of His creation by expansion of happy spiritual rays, equal in power to His personal potency of bliss.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.37)

Just as there is a thin line between love and hate, the difference that separates those who take to intoxication and those who take to bhakti is actually quite small. Both parties are fed up with the pressures of material life, the incessant pain brought on by the senses. Both groups are looking for an escape, but one side takes the proper path towards freedom, while the other further binds themselves in the perpetual cycle of misery. The life of the inebriated person certainly burns faster, as their opportunities for realizing the highest knowledge and subsequent pleasure rapidly dwindle. Bhaktas go in the opposite direction, using their precious time to slowly but surely find eternal spiritual life. The devotee aims to please the senses of the Supreme Lord by regularly chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Krishna and Rama are names for God which are not sectarian in any way. Though they may be well known to the people of the Indian subcontinent, Krishna and Rama are simply Sanskrit words which describe the transcendental features of the Supreme Lord.

God most certainly does exist, even if we fail to acknowledge His presence and supremacy. Matter is dull; its only quality is that of inertia. In order for this inertia to be broken, the hand of spirit is required. The power to move matter belongs to the individual spirit souls, or purushas, and it also belongs to the greatest purusha, the Supreme Spirit. No matter what a scientist may say, nothing can occur in this world without the hand of spirit. Life comes from life, and the origin of life can be found in the spiritual world, a place where dull matter does not exist.

“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

Lord Krishna Bhakti is so nice that it even benefits the atheist. For example, let’s say that a person is a staunch believer in the power of matter and chemicals. They don’t believe in God and they think that once life is over, everything becomes finished. This belief still doesn’t take away from their natural desire to enjoy, their daily search for happiness and peace. The natural inclination of the non-believer is to take to sense gratification at all costs. Yet as we see from intoxication, which represents a temporary escape from the senses, there are many harmful side effects. Since the intensity of the negative effects is greater than the magnitude of the positive effects, we can say that intoxication ultimately leads to a worse off condition for the seeker of sense gratification. Since the aim of the karmi, the fruitive worker not caring about a higher authority, is to reach a positive condition, a general progression in the search for a panacea of happiness, intoxication must be deemed an overall negative activity.

If the same atheist were to take to bhakti by regularly chanting God’s name, hearing stories about Him, and offering obeisances to His deity, there would be many positive side effects. Just by refraining from intoxication, gambling, illicit sex life, and meat eating, the non-devotee going through the motions of spiritual life stays away from the most harmful activities, those engagements which lead to the most intense harmful side effects in this life and the next. In addition, bhakti is a much more peaceful engagement, one consisting of singing, dancing, reading, writing, and eating. One who practices bhakti perfectly no longer has to lament or hanker; life becomes pretty simple. In this streamlined way of living, the strong influence of the senses is quelled, and thus the initial objective of pleasure is actually achieved.

The wise view intoxication and other acts of pure sense gratification as maya, or illusion. When something is illusory, it is taken to be something that it is not. Intoxication represents one of the greatest illusions because it carries the allure of happiness, when in reality it only leads to misery. Bhakti, on the other hand, is completely lacking in deceit. It is so simple, pure, and straightforward that even the non-believers are benefitted by it. The same can’t be said of intoxication or any other act of sense gratification. One who is not a believer in drinking, smoking, or eating meat surely is never benefitted by dedicating their lives to such activities.

Since bhakti proves to be the most beneficial engagement, surely its founder, the person who instituted it, must be very intelligent. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that bhakti comes from God, whose original form is that of Lord Krishna. Indeed, bhakti’s effectiveness comes from its target of interest, the satisfaction of the senses of the Lord. If the atheist takes to bhakti and is benefitted as a result, surely the creator of the system would have to be credited for the successful outcome. Since the system comes from Krishna, the atheist would have to acknowledge the Lord’s greatness and intelligence. Since Krishna gave us bhakti, surely His other prescriptions would have to be equally as valid. Krishna’s most succinct set of instructions can be found in the famous Bhagavad-gita, also known as the Song of God.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

Krishna's lotus feet Krishna’s final instruction in the Gita is that Arjuna, His cousin and disciple, should simply surrender unto and dedicate all his activities to God. This will ensure happiness, relief from all sinful reactions, and ascension to the imperishable realm in the afterlife. In this way, bhakti not only represents a natural high in terms of stimulation of the spiritual senses, but it represents a true elevation in terms of where it takes the spirit soul. The secret to the success of bhakti lies in its dealings with the spirit soul. The soul of an individual has a constitutional makeup, a natural inclination towards a specific set of activities. These activities have a beneficiary, an ultimate object of worship. In the realm of the material world, the natural loving propensity is misdirected to the sense objects. In spiritual activities, acts of devotion, the loving propensity is directed at God. This is the natural disposition of the liberated soul. It is a lover of God through and through.

“A person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego—he alone can attain real peace.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.71)

Only bhakti brings the natural high of association with Krishna. No other discipline, theistic or atheistic, can secure the same reward. Taking up devotional service can solve any and all problems. At the time of death, the individual whose mind is completely fixed on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord will immediately return to the spiritual realm, a place wherefrom they never have to return. This brings liberation from the cycle of birth and death, which also means that one will never have to be a slave to the senses again. The natural high of association with Krishna, as is experienced by the liberated souls residing in the spiritual world, brings all the glory and happiness without any of the worry.

Radha Krishna On one side you have activities which bring some pleasure along with many negative effects. On the other side you have activities which bring tremendous pleasures without any of the unwanted consequences. A sober person, one who can objectively weigh the two options, will surely choose the latter. The claims of the bhaktas are not false promises that only bear fruit in the afterlife. Everyone is looking for pleasure after all, so those who are already faithfully engaged in the service of Krishna would not take to such activity if it didn’t bring them happiness. “The proof is in the pudding” as they say, so one should at least adopt the chanting process and see what effect it has.

Krishna’s Mercy Newsletter – January 2011

New eBook Published:

How We Met

We have taken our collection of past articles pertaining to Sita’s meeting with Anasuya and created an eBook titled, How We Met: Sita Describing Her Marriage to Rama. The eBook is available in a variety of formats, including pdf, epub, and mobi. It can be accessed and downloaded for free from Smashwords at the link below. In addition, the eBook is available in the Apple iBookStore on the iPad and iPhone, the Amazon Kindle store, and the Barnes and Noble Nook store. Kindle and Nook books can be read on their respective standalone devices, on a PC, and on a wide variety of mobile devices through the Kindle and Nook Apps. How We Met is free everywhere except at the Kindle store, where it is $0.99. Amazon would not allow us to set a lower price. To download the iBooks version, you have to enter the title of the book into the search box of the iBooks app. Here are links to the other versions:



Barnes and Noble:

Book Recommendation

Sri Jagannath

TitleSri Jagannath (The Pastimes of The Lord of The Universe)

Author:  Bhakti Purusottama Swami

Synopsis:  Worship of Shri Jagannatha, another non-different form of Lord Krishna, is very popular throughout the world, but information pertaining to His pastimes and the advent of the original temple in India is difficult to find. This book provides very nice information and includes wonderful, heartwarming stories pertaining to different past incidents of Shri Jagannatha and His devotees. The chapters aren’t very long, and the subject matter is presented in a very readable and easy to understand manner. If there are any negatives, they are minor, as diacritic marks aren’t included and there are a few typographical mistakes here and there. On the whole, however, the content of the book is enough to bring tremendous enjoyment.

From the Archive

Here is one of our past favorite articles:  God Is Nice

Lord Nrishmadeva blesses Prahlada Maharaja“No one is envied by Me, neither am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all; yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me; and I am a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 9.29)

We often see God depicted as being very vengeful and someone we should fear. Many of us have passed by the people on the street who sternly warn us to surrender to God or suffer eternal damnation in hell. Natural disasters are viewed by many as God’s way of getting revenge on us for our sins. Because of this, many modern organized religions survive by instilling fear in their members. They say that we should fear God and surrender unto Him if we want to be absolved of our sins.

In actuality, God is our dearmost well-wishing friend. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedic tradition, tells us in the Bhagavad-gita that He is actually neutral to everyone in this material world. This material world was created out of the desire of the spirit souls to lord over nature. We wanted to pretend to be God, so He granted our wish by allowing us to come to this universe. Due to the influence of maya, Krishna’s illusory energy, we are all identifying with our bodies and thinking that we are the doer of our activities. We think that the results that we achieve are all due to our own efforts. Deluding ourselves in this way, we spend our lives going further and further away from God.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 3.27)

According to the laws of material nature, the living entity is constantly going through the cycle of birth, death, old age, and disease. Due to our work and desires, we accept new bodies after we are finished with our current one. This is the law of karma. We enjoy happiness or suffer through misery due to the karma accumulated in this life and in previous ones. Each individual has their own desires and wants, and the material world is the playing field where the desires of all living entities collide head on with each other. The world stock markets are a good example of this principle in action on a very small scale. On any given day, millions of traders compete with each other to make money through the buying and selling of stocks. Traders all have different temperaments, personalities, and levels of intelligence. Each person has their own goals that they set out to achieve. The trading floor is the arena where all these goals and desires collide and because of this, we see that some people are very successful, while others lose millions and become bankrupt.

These collisions exist in the material world on a much greater level through the three qualities of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Every living entity possesses these qualities in some varying combination. Since not everyone possesses these qualities at the same levels, we see variegations in the species, to the point of 8,400,000 different varieties. Everyone is competing with each other to satisfy their desires, so naturally there will be collisions of varying magnitudes. As a result, from time to time we see horrific tragedies, such as mass murders, terrorist attacks, school shootings, etc. Lord Krishna is not to blame for this, for He is not directly involved with the day to day affairs of the material world.

“As there are constitutional laws in the material world stating that the king can do no wrong, or that the king is not subject to the state laws, similarly the Lord, although He is the creator of this material world, is not affected by the activities of the material world. He creates and remains aloof from the creation, whereas the living entities are entangled in the fruitive results of material activities because of their propensity for lording it over material resources.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg 4.14 Purport)

Through His energies, this material world was created and through His deputies, the demigods, material affairs are managed. The demigods handle all issues of fairness with regards to karma. God personally has no stake in our material fortunes.

Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu Lord Krishna makes an exception however when it comes to His devotees. Krishna is very partial towards His devotees and He will do anything to protect them and make them happy. Examples of this affection can be found throughout the historical incidents documented in the great Vedic literatures. In the Treta Yuga, Krishna incarnated as Lord Rama specifically to save His devotees who were being harassed by the demon Ravana. In a previous time, there was a young boy by the name of Prahlada who was a great devotee of the Lord. Though he was born into the family of the Daityas, who are atheistic by nature, Prahlada was a completely surrendered soul from his very birth. His atheistic father, Hiranyakashipu, very much disliked his son’s devotion to God. He tried to kill Prahlada through various means, but Prahlada miraculously survived each and every attack. It was actually no miracle, for the boy simply thought of Lord Krishna during each attack, which is the best way to guarantee one’s safety. The Lord always protects His devotees no matter what. Even if they are put into difficult or painful situations, He guarantees that they will return to His abode after quitting their present bodies.

“Anyone who quits his body, at the end of life, remembering Me, attains immediately to My nature; and there is no doubt of this.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 8.5)

Finally, the Lord had enough of Hiranyakashipu’s deplorable behavior, so He personally incarnated as Narasimha Deva to kill him. This also represents the reverse side of the Lord’s favoritism. As kind as He is to His devotees, He is equally unkind to the enemies of His devotees. He will dole out the most severe punishment to the miscreants who dare harm His bhaktas.

This material world is a cause of constant fear. We have so many possessions and relationships that are all destined to end. We try very hard to defend and hold on to these ties, knowing that one day we won’t have them. In the spiritual world, such fear doesn’t exist. Our relationship with Krishna is eternal, and realizing that relationship means never having to be afraid again. God is not someone that we need to fear. If we learn to love Him, then He will reciprocate times ten. The best way to love God is through the process of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. If we constantly engage ourselves in hearing stories about the Lord, offering Him prayers, and chanting His name, then He will surely notice us. God resides in all of us through His Paramatma, or Supersoul, expansion. By practicing devotional service, we slowly move our consciousness from the material to the spiritual platform, where we can dovetail it with the Supreme Consciousness. Let us all become devotees of Krishna, not out of fear, but out of love for Him and His causeless mercy. He will always love us and never let us down, so we have nothing to fear.

Krishna's Mercy

Friday, December 31, 2010

No Need To Forget

Lord Rama “When angered, Raghava is capable of bringing the entire world, including all devas, asuras, and Gandharvas, under His control simply by taking up His bow.” (Hanuman speaking to Sugriva, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 32.19)

This cogent advice, forever grounded in the truth, was offered by the esteemed, supremely worshipable, Shri Hanuman, the most celebrated servant of Shri Rama. In this passage, we are reminded both of the Almighty’s all-powerful strength and His ability to take away everything visible before us. This world is temporary after all, so there must be a creator and a destroyer. Only the original Divine Being exists forever in His transcendental form; thus He is the only person who lives through the creations and destructions of the innumerable universes. Though there is no reason to ever forget about the original person, the ultimate reservoir of pleasure, the living entities invariably do shift their mind’s attention towards other interests. When the mind starts to drift, it is helpful to be reminded of the Lord’s attributes, especially as it relates to our particular areas of interest.

“O Arjuna, I control heat, the rain and the drought. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both being and nonbeing are in Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.19)

Vanaras building bridge to Lanka In this particular instance, the areas of interest relate to a kingdom and all the opulences that come with it. Many thousands of years ago, the forest dwellers in Kishkindha were basking in the reacquisition of a lost kingdom. During those times, the forest inhabitants were known as Vanaras, which is a Sanskrit word which means “of the forest.” Since these events took place so long ago, the species residing in the forests weren’t necessarily human beings or monkeys. The Vanaras were a combination of both; not some mythological creatures, but rather, a species specific to the time period. According to Vedic information, the varieties in species are caused by the innumerable combinations of material qualities that souls accept upon entry into the temporary creation. The only permanent creation exists in the spiritual sky, a realm where the Lord in His original form and His liberated associates enjoy each other’s company. The temporary creation is the world that we currently inhabit, a place full of misery, duality, and heartache. Since every soul has different desires to act out on this temporary playground, they are each given bodies with different qualities to make use of. The Vanaras of the Treta Yuga were one particular type of species who primarily possessed monkey-like characteristics, along with the ability to speak and take in knowledge.

Since they were also human-like, the Vanaras assembled together into kingdoms just as ordinary human beings do. In one particular kingdom, there was a quarrel between two brothers, Vali and Sugriva. On one occasion, Vali was drawn into a cave while fighting with an enemy. Sugriva, who was waiting outside, thought he heard Vali breathe his last, so in order to save the rest of his kingdom from the wrath of the demon, he decided to close up the only exit/entry to the cave. In reality though, it was the demon who had died and Vali who had lived. Able to make his way out of the cave, Vali became enraged towards Sugriva, thinking that his brother had closed up the cave on purpose so as to take over the kingdom. A fight ensued, with Sugriva eventually being driven out of his kingdom.

Rama and Lakshmana Sugriva, taking shelter in the forest of Kishkindha, a place where Vali was forbidden from entering, had the good fortune of meeting Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana are famous throughout India today, as is Hanuman. Rama is considered an incarnation of Godhead, a primary avatara of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, Krishna, Rama, and Narayana are interchangeable names for the person the rest of the world refers to as God. These names are more descriptive than the name “God” because they reference specific attributes and transcendental qualities possessed by the Lord. In the case of Rama, the name also refers to a specific incarnation of Godhead who appeared on earth and enacted wonderful pastimes.

As Lord Rama, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the blissful Personality of Godhead, roamed the earth in His transcendental form of a pious kshatriya prince. Rama, as the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, played the part of the pious descendant of the Raghu dynasty based in Ayodhya. While roaming the forests for fourteen years with His younger brother Lakshmana, Rama’s wife Sita Devi was kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Sita was also with the group on their sojourn through the forest, but at the time of the kidnapping, both Rama and Lakshmana happened to be absent from the group’s hermitage. Upon learning of Sita’s disappearance, Rama and Lakshmana frantically began a search for her whereabouts. One particular Rakshasa later informed them that the monkey-king Sugriva living in Kishkindha would be able to help them in their search.

Rama shooting Vali Upon reaching Kishkindha, a meeting between Rama and Sugriva was brokered by Hanuman, Sugriva’s chief minister. This meeting then led to an alliance, a sort of implied agreement. Sugriva wanted to regain his kingdom from Vali and Rama wanted to find His wife. Both agreed to help each other out with what they needed. Lord Rama held up His end of the bargain. Sugriva challenged Vali to a fight, and while the monkeys were engaged in battle, Rama shot Vali in the back with an arrow. Upon the monkey’s death, Sugriva and his subjects regained their kingdom.

Since the Vanaras were more monkey-like than human-like, they naturally took to excessive celebration after their victory. Sugriva spent months engaged in intoxication and sex life with innumerable female consorts. After considerable time had passed, Lakshmana’s patience ran out. Rama was faithful to the agreement, but Sugriva had failed to live up to his end. Sita was still missing and no one knew where she was. Lakshmana then angrily approached Sugriva’s home and asked to have a face-to-face meeting with the king. Hearing of Lakshmana’s anger, Sugriva became afraid and asked his counselors about what should be done. Hanuman stepped in and offered some sound words of advice.

Lord Rama In the above referenced quote, Hanuman is reminding Sugriva of Rama’s powers. Hanuman, who is a pure devotee of Shri Rama, knows the Lord very well. Hanuman never thinks of anyone else, so he never fails to remember Rama’s potencies. Lord Rama is generally depicted as very happy, wearing a pleasing smile on His face. He is God after all, so why wouldn’t He be happy? Yet here Hanuman is reminding Sugriva that Rama can also get angry if need be. It was through the Lord’s fighting prowess that Sugriva was able to enjoy the happiness that he was currently basking in. Therefore it was incumbent upon the monkey-king to hold up his end of the bargain. Lord Rama, as the most powerful warrior the world had ever seen, was not only capable of killing Vali and others, but He was capable of destroying the entire creation, including the residents of different planets. The demigods are the pious elevated living entities who reside in the heavenly planets. The asuras are the demons; they generally reside in the lower hellish planets. The Gandharvas are the celestial singers who entertain the demigods in heaven with their sweet songs. Lord Rama was so powerful that He could bring all of these entities under His control simply by shooting one arrow from His bow.

While Hanuman’s words reference a specific situation where an agreement between two parties was broken, the statement applies to all of us. The natural order of things, the way things ought to be, is to have the living entities constantly serve God. The mood of this service can vary, but the two separate entities, with one being superior and one being inferior, must be recognized. The Lord is meant to be worshiped, and the living entities are meant to provide that worship. But this devotion must be practiced voluntarily.

There is an inherent covenant established between the living entities and their supreme object of pleasure, Shri Krishna. God has already held up His end of the bargain. He supplies our food and other necessities through His different agents who are in charge of the material creation. The Lord has already established the condition in which our service to Him can be carried out. One may be inclined to disagree with this assertion, for how can everyone offer service to God? Aren’t some of us in distressful conditions, forced to suffer through famine, war, and natural disasters? For the people of this age, the easiest and most effective devotional activity is the chanting of the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Since this chanting process is available to all of us, it should be understood that the Lord has already created a condition sufficient enough for our devotional efforts to be carried out without impediment.

Hanuman chanting The ball is now in our court. Sugriva, upon hearing Hanuman’s words, decided to kindly pacify Lakshmana and pay back the debts owed to Shri Rama. Sugriva was eternally benefitted as a result, for Rama was able to find Sita , kill her abductor, and return triumphantly to His kingdom with all His friends and associates. Sugriva not only regained his kingdom, but through his service to Rama, he became famous throughout the world as a great devotee. For the conditioned entities living in the present, there is no reason to forget Rama or His powers. Currently our devotion is directed elsewhere towards objects which are nothing more than transformations of matter. Since God is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of that matter, we would be better served shifting our devotion towards Him. There is no need to forget the all-powerful and all-merciful Lord. He is kindly awaiting our service and our subsequent return to His spiritual abode.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fighting For One Cause

Lord Krishna's lotus feet “Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.29)

Despite the noble efforts of societal leaders, individuals are naturally inclined to viewing others in terms of their relationship to a particular race, gender, nationality, or religious group. These classifications are often revealed through the practices of racism and bigotry; hence the categorization is viewed in a negative light. Yet the practice is so prevalent because grouping individuals in this way allows for similarities and natural bonds with our fellow man to be found. Similarities in distinguishing features make it easier to form friendships and feel as though there are others out there going through similar struggles. Though groupings based off bodily traits and behavior certainly do have some validity, there is one trait that every single form of life shares. When the proper vision is acquired to see this quality in everyone, society at large can work together for the highest common good, a condition which leads to peace and harmony for all.

Though the average human being puts on a new set of clothes every day and gradually progresses through the various stages of life, the grouping of individuals is not usually based on age or outward dress. Rather, distinctions are made between gender, nationality, religious affiliation, and species. In fact, the scientific discipline of biology goes into a deep study of the different kingdoms, phyla, and species of life that are known to be in existence. These groupings are created so as to make life easier to understand. If we know what a particular form of life is prone towards doing, it’s easier to react to them. As a famous children’s animated television show once said, “And knowing is half the battle”, knowledge brings confidence. If we are in the know about something, we will know what to expect and how to react in important situations.

Though there are many movements that push for equality and racial harmony, it is an undeniable fact that issues of race and gender are always part of the public’s consciousness. When filling out any official document of importance, nationality and race are usually addressed. These group distinctions allow a person to find commonalities with their fellow man and thus understand them better. Not only are groupings made off of outward features of the body, but also on occupation and interests in hobbies and so forth. If we practice medicine for a living, naturally we will have things in common with other doctors and medical practitioners. If we write computer programs for a living, it would make sense that we’d have other computer scientists as friends.

Bhagavad-gita The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, teach one very important lesson to aspiring transcendentalists. This instruction is put forth right at the beginning, before the student goes any further in their studies. Aham brahmasmi, which means “I am Brahman.”, serves as the first lesson because it helps us understand that we have something in common with every form of life, regardless of the type of body they occupy. There is only one God, but since His potency is so great, He gives off transcendental sparks that are individually autonomous. Since these sparks come from the original fire, there is a natural affinity towards association with the reservoir of energy. Yet the qualities of free-will and independence bring about choices for the sparks. The autonomous entities may not always choose to associate with their intimate life partner, the Supreme Lord. Those who choose against the reservoir of spiritual energy are allowed to take birth in a realm which has nothing to do with God, save for His presence as an impartial observer.

Since every form of life in this material world is in the same predicament and of the same quality, they are all equal. The aggregate total of all spirit makes up Brahman. In this way, every one of us is Brahman at the core, but currently we are covered by a material body which is always changing. This dress, or outer garment, causes false identifications based on race, gender, and ethnicity. These identifications are deemed flawed because they don’t speak to the nature of Brahman. Spirit is completely pure and uncontaminated. Brahman is a way to realize the Absolute Truth, or God. The best way to understand Brahman is to think of the sun and the sunshine. The sun is all-powerful and completely unique. There is nothing like it in the universe. No one can explain its workings or even come close to contaminating it. As such, God is like the sun, only more powerful and complete.

Lord Krishna The sunshine emanates from the sun, so it can be considered non-different from the original solar body. There is no difference in the constitutional makeup between one ray of sunshine and another. Yet the sunshine is not nearly as powerful as the sun. The sunshine’s potency can also be covered up and clouded by other material elements. Though the constitutional makeup of the sunshine never changes, its autonomous nature is checked in a way by the material elements. The sun, however, is never checked. One may be able to block out the effects of the sun for a short period of time, but the sun itself remains exactly in the same position. No one is able to move it.

“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)

The properties of the sun and the sunshine illustrate the difference between God and the living entities. The sum total of the sunshine can be thought of as Brahman. Since we are all individual sparks, part of Brahman, we are all considered equal. This includes the ants, reptiles, plants, cows, and other forms of life. When one understands this fact, they can create the most inclusive grouping of all. If we understand that everyone is Brahman, we’ll see that everyone is our brother and sister. We are all one, as we are all the same. We are all fighting for one cause, so the more people that join this fight the better.

And what exactly is that cause? As sparks emanating from the Supreme Energetic, our natural position is to be engaged in His service. Yet this engagement cannot be taken up unless and until we realize who we are. The false identifications based off class, gender, and race are related to the outer covering of the soul. This covering is constantly changing, and at the time of death, a brand new set of material elements is provided to the soul, such are the workings of the laws of karma, or fruitive activity. Upon ascending to the Brahman realization stage, a purified individual can take the necessary steps to thwart karma’s effects.

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.54)

Lord Krishna Upon realizing Brahman, there is no more hankering or lamenting. Hankering is a result of the desire for some personal benefit, and lamentation comes from failing to achieve whatever was hankered after. Since the outer body is always changing and is subject to eventual destruction, there is no reason to hanker or lament over anything related to it. Rather, the aim of life should be to reunite with the spiritual sun, Shri Krishna. In the Vedic tradition, the one and only God is referred to by many names, each of which speaks to His innumerable transcendental attributes. For a husband, there is great joy derived from hearing his beloved call him by his name. The name is much more personal and indicative of the loving thoughts shared by the paramour. In the same way, addressing God by His different names shows signs of transcendental love directed at the Supreme Loveable Object.

Though there are many names for the Divine Personality, Krishna is considered the most inclusive. It speaks to His all-attractive nature, His position as the best friend of every living entity, and His status as the ultimate enjoyer. Though Krishna can be called directly by saying His name, there is an even better way to address both He and His supreme potency. God is the energetic and the spirit souls are His energy. When the energy is in the company of the energetic, the energy is considered liberated and in its natural habitat. There is one living entity who best exemplifies the transcendental loving spirit, the energy acting in the interests of the energetic. This person is Shrimati Radharani, the eternal consort of Lord Krishna. Both Radha and Krishna can be address by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers]—can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.32)

Shrimati Radharani When the Brahman classification is adopted, a bond with our fellow man can immediately be formed and the chanting of the Lord’s names can collectively commence. Along with chanting, there are other processes such as worshiping, hearing, and remembering. When the processes are taken together, or if only one process is exclusively adopted, we get the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. We should note that nowhere in this discipline is their mention of the Hindu faith or one’s birthright, skin color, or gender. This speaks to the nature of Brahman. Brahman is neither American, nor Indian, nor Russian, nor Chinese. Brahman is not male or female. Brahman has no relation to bank balance, stature in society, or physical strength. Every form of life, anything with a soul in it, is Brahman. Krishna is Parabrahman, or the Supreme Spirit, so when Brahman dovetails all its activities with His service, there is peace and harmony. Since we are already accustomed to making designations, why not adopt the most accurate one, a classification that applies universally and brings about the highest benefit?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Shri Hanuman “You know that living entities are always coming and going, and thus their lives are temporary. Therefore, the learned people of this world take to performing prescribed worldly duties which yield auspicious results.” (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.5)

A pandita is a learned person, a wise man. The word is now part of the English vocabulary in the form of “pundit”. Though the spelling is a little different, the meaning of the word is pretty much the same. While there are pundits for just about every area of interest, such as sports, politics, and financials, the original Sanskrit word refers to one who knows the highest truth. A learned man understands the meaning of life and how to achieve it. A pandita is considered wise not only because of his empirical knowledge, but also because of how he chooses to act based on that knowledge. Following the behavior of a true pandita, we can decipher the proper path to take.

Wisdom usually comes from experience. There are two ways of acquiring knowledge: the ascending process and the descending process. Through the ascending process, small hypotheses are formed and then tested. As more and more information is gathered from the test results, the scope of the experiments starts to expand, eventually leading to a more detailed, all-encompassing conclusion. The descending process is easier because the same truths which were discovered by careful past observers can be passed down to future generations.

Krishna devouring a fire Learning of the heat properties of fire can illustrate the difference between the two processes quite clearly. A young child can discover that fire is hot by touching it. Certainly this will cause a little pain, but that comes with the territory when acquiring knowledge. Yet just because a single instance of fire is hot, it doesn’t mean that all fire is hot. Therefore the same child can go on repeating the same tests over and over again, continually burning themselves, until they realize that all fire is hot. This is knowledge acquired through the ascending process. The descending process would have provided the same information to the child without any of the painful burns. A wise person could tell a young child that fire is hot and to avoid touching it. Simply accepting this wisdom, the child can gain a perfect understanding of the properties of fire without much endeavor.

While the descending process is superior, individuals still prefer to learn things on their own. Therefore, much knowledge is acquired through the ascending process. For those who adopt this method, one fact slowly learned as time goes by is that the life of the living entity is temporary in nature. Birth and death are always part of the consciousness. Friends, family members, and countrymen die all the time, while mothers give birth to new children every day. Eventually, through enough experience and vision, a wise person realizes that they too will die some day. Not only will they die, but the date of this death is unknown to them.

In the Vedic tradition, the wise person is known as a pandita because they not only understand this truth about life and death, but they take the necessary steps to improve their condition. What does this mean exactly? The body is indeed temporary, as birth and death simply represent the changing of bodies. The central object of interest, therefore, is the future fortune of the soul. The soul is the life force, the essence of individuality. Where the soul ends up is what really matters. The wise person realizes that it is important to pay attention to the plight of the soul immediately, for there is no knowing when death will come.

Hanuman So what does the pandita do? What activities does he take to? How are these activities any different from the ones performed by those who aren’t panditas? For the answer, we can tap into the storehouse of information provided by the great spiritual leaders of the past. Using the descending process to our advantage, we can find out how to achieve perfection in life simply by following the authorized instructions provided by acharyas, or those who lead by example. One such wise person is Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama.

The Vedas, the scriptures emanating from India, are not unique in their belief of God. Many spiritual traditions around the world believe in an all-powerful entity, for that is the essence of religion. The Vedas stand out in that they tell us that this Absolute Truth has an eternal form which acts as a vehicle for loving exchanges with the individual souls of the world. The original spiritual form full of bliss and knowledge is that of Shri Krishna, who is also known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Yet God’s sweetness isn’t limited to His original form of Krishna. Rather, due to His kind mercy, He appears on earth in the guises of various personal expansions. These incarnations perform wonderful activities for the protection of the pious, all the while giving pleasure to the surrendered soul. One such incarnation is Lord Rama, the chivalrous prince of Ayodhya who roamed this earth many thousands of years ago.

Lakshmana and Rama with Hanuman While Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure and sweetness and other aspects of the Divine are typically viewed in a reverential mood, Lord Rama is somewhere in between. He certainly can be revered for His great power and dedication to piety, but at the same time, He can exchange heartfelt affection with the purified souls, the great devotees. Arguably Rama’s greatest devotee is Lord Hanuman, a liberated soul who takes the form of an enchanting monkey. During Rama’s time on earth, Hanuman got to personally offer his service to Rama, exchanging love in the moods of friendship and servitude.

On one occasion, Rama was asked to kill the monkey-king Vali, who was Sugriva’s brother who had driven Sugriva out of his kingdom. Lord Rama came through for his friend Sugriva by shooting Vali in the back and killing him. Vali’s wife, Tara, didn’t handle this tragic event very well, as would be expected for a woman had just become a widow. Seeing her dead husband lying on the ground, she gave way to grief and lamentation, and she bemoaned her situation and also that of her husband’s. Seeing her pitiable condition, Hanuman stepped in to offer some sound words of advice. In the above referenced statement, Hanuman reminds Tara of the temporary nature of the living entities and how they are always coming and going. He also tells her that the wise, the panditas, use their knowledge of the temporary nature of life to take to prescribed activities of this world which lead to auspicious results.

Hanuman This point is quite interesting. Normally, when faced with the idea of certain death, the tendency is to take to the opposite of prescribed duties. The saying, “You only live once”, is often invoked by those who take to a carefree lifestyle, not worrying about their death that may come at any minute. The logic behind such behavior is that if death is going to come, why not enjoy as much as possible before then? From Hanuman’s statement, we see that the wise take the exact opposite approach. Since human beings are always coming and going, it must mean that death is not the end for them. After all, where do these new births come from? These souls must have been alive before to have taken birth again. This may seem like a dogmatic belief of reincarnation subscribed to by the Hindus, but it is not so. The soul certainly remains intact throughout the changes of the current body, so why wouldn’t it remain unchanged after it leaves the body at the time of death?

“Those with the vision of eternity can see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.32)

From Shri Hanuman’s statement, we see that if the time of death is uncertain, one should immediately take the necessary steps to better their future condition. This is how most of us act already, except with a different goal in mind. Plans pertaining to future fortunes are always made, be they in relation to going to school or working hard at the office. The idea behind these plans is to have some enjoyment in the future. If these activities aren’t adopted, the enjoyable condition will never be met. By the same token, prescribed duties, those passed down from the great saints of the past, are meant to provide a future enjoyable condition for the soul. If these activities aren’t taken up, the pleasant spiritual condition can never be met. Moreover, if death should come, the chance for performing these activities is lost. The soul then has to wait until the next birth to again take up these activities. Where and when this birth will take place are unknown, hence the added emphasis on the here and now.

Okay, so we have to take to prescribed duties, but what does that mean? What are some of these duties? In the case of Tara, the prescribed duties involved performing the funeral rites for the husband. These rites help the future plight of the departed soul, and also help the performer to understand the meaning of life and the importance of focusing the mind on spirituality. While the funeral rites are one small aspect of prescribed duties, there is a bigger picture, an ultimate goal which is to be attained. All prescribed rules and regulations are aimed at realizing this goal.

Lord Krishna For the people living in this age, the Kali Yuga, adherence to all the rules and regulations is not possible. Life is very hectic, with so many things begging for our attention and taking up our time. Therefore, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Pure, has recommended that the topmost prescribed duty for the people of this age is the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The name of God is the key; it alone can deliver a person. This name is the mother, the father, the guru, the support system, the savior. This name is non-different from the Lord, so those who hang on to this name as their life and soul will certainly be performing the highest duty.

If this highest occupation, the chanting of God’s names, is taken up, then naturally the performer will be rewarded with the greatest benediction. And what exactly is that reward? The individual soul transmigrates through different bodies based on the activities it performs in each lifetime. While this process is continuous, it doesn’t have to be. The God conscious soul, he who keeps his mind fixed on any direct aspect of the transcendent Lord at the time of death, never has to suffer through birth and death. The comings and goings stop, thus the root cause of the temporary nature of life is eliminated. If the soul isn’t thrown around in the clothes dryer known as the material world, where does it go? There is a spiritual sky where the original Personality of Godhead and His non-different expansions reside. It is in this spiritual realm that the devoted soul enjoys the sweetness of association with the Supreme Lord in His original transcendental form.

Hanuman chanting A person may be considered wise based on their mastery of a particular field. Great souls like Hanuman, however, are true panditas, the most learned among us, due to their transcendental knowledge and the activities taken up as a result of possessing that information. The panditas have laid the groundwork for us, so we simply have to accept the knowledge descending from their lotus mouths and act accordingly. The highest prescribed duty for the people of any age is to engage in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to God. Through the chanting process, any person can become a perfect yogi, one who reaps the highest benefit in the afterlife.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Lord Krishna “Krishna does not change His constitutional position, not even when He appears in this material world. Ordinary living entities have their constitutional spiritual positions covered. They appear in different bodies, and under the different bodily concepts of life they act. But Krishna does not change His body.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 51)

For the conditioned soul, the divine incarnation is very difficult to understand, especially when juxtaposed with nature, matter, and spirit. Though many religious traditions focus exclusively on worship of an exalted personality or divine figure, the Vedas go one step further by carefully analyzing the nature around us and the meaning behind its workings. At the heart of the issue is the difference between matter and spirit, prakriti and purusha. The enjoyer is the spirit and the enjoyed is the matter that the spirit associates with. The most exalted divine figure, the one person who never subjects Himself to the influences of matter, thus becomes the supreme object of worship, the singular entity that the individual souls are meant to be in constant association with. Since the Supreme Entity is the ultimate enjoyer, His pleasure comes from interactions with His subordinate subjects, the individual souls of the material and spiritual worlds. Therefore the aim for any individual unaware of these facts is to shift their mindset from that of enjoyers to that of enjoyed. For this transition to take place, one must have a firm understanding of the differences between matter and spirit and what the living entity’s place in this world is. To help the conditioned soul illusioned by the forces of nature make light of the giant mess which is the material world, the Supreme Entity, the person we all know as God, kindly descends to earth from time to time.

Lord Krishna “How can God take birth?” This is an appropriate question put forth by both friend and foe alike, the inquisitive and the challengers of the authenticity and validity of the truths espoused by the Vedas. The birth and death of the individual is not difficult to comprehend. There is a spirit soul that gets placed inside of a very tiny body, which then grows while in the womb of a mother. After exiting the womb, this new body then gradually develops, exists for some time, leaves some byproducts, and then ultimately gets destroyed. Throughout these events, the identity of the individual doesn’t change. Rather, only the outer covering of the soul shifts. At the time of death, the same individual is placed inside of a new body, where they subsequently go through the same cycle of life all over again. If, however, the individual’s consciousness is purified at the time of death, they get to return to the spiritual realm, a land where birth and death do not take place.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

Birth and death only take place on the material planets because of the individual’s desire to associate with matter. We can think of matter as being dull elements; things which have no life of their own. Spirit is the driving force behind all action, including the development, maintenance, and destruction of matter. This interaction with gross elements takes place due to the individual soul’s misuse of independence. As an autonomous spiritual entity, an individual soul has a choice in its association. When one’s desires are pure, the natural association is with God and His other liberated soul mates. When desire becomes contaminated, a fall down to the material world follows.

Lord Krishna with cow The nature of the material realm is very difficult to understand. Therefore the human body is considered the most beneficial due to the heightened potential for intelligence. Only in the human form of life can a spirit soul even understand the nature of matter and the inevitability of death. Simply knowing these facts is difficult enough, for sobriety is required to perceive the subtle changes to the body that occur at every second. Yet actually knowing what to do with this information is even more of a daunting task. Therefore, the Supreme Lord, out of His causeless mercy, instituted the system of dharma, or occupational duty, and passed it down through the great Vedic texts. Yet even understanding these literary works is quite difficult, so the Lord kindly sends exalted personalities known as gurus, or spiritual masters, to teach society at large. Yet sometimes circumstances in society get so out of hand that the direct intervention of the Lord is required. In these instances, the Supreme Lord directly expands Himself into a spiritual body and makes an appearance on earth.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.24)

Even to the individual who has a basic understanding of the laws of karma and the differences between matter and spirit, it would appear that the incarnation of God would have to assume a material body, one similar to those possessed by the living entities. After all, the laws of nature are absolute, so how could God find a way to bypass them? To understand how the Lord remains completely spiritual, a quick review of the issue of readability can prove helpful. Nowhere is readability more required than in mathematics and computer science. The comma, a grammatical character used to indicate a short pause in a sentence, plays a key role in understanding mathematics. If there is a very large number, say something in the tens of millions, it is very difficult to read, or translate in the mind, when displayed simply as digits. It takes a trained eye to be able to correctly identify a number that large. Therefore commas are used as a way to enhance readability. The comma is inserted inside of the number at intervals of three digits, so as to give the human eye an easier way to correctly identify the number.

comma Though the comma is inserted into the visual form of the number, it has nothing to do with the digits or the value. The comma is a completely independent entity that retains its meaning at all times, regardless of where it is placed. The relationship between the Supreme Lord and the material world can be thought of in the same light. The entire creation, which includes everything matter and spirit, is part of God. The living entity, riddled by the possessive mindsets of “I” and “Mine”, is accustomed to viewing everything from a personal perspective. A wiser person will be able to view groups of individuals at a whole, while an even more intelligent person can see patterns over a large cross-section of groups. The paramahamsa, the spiritualist on the highest level of understanding, sees everything and every person as being equal, or part of God. If their abilities were to be explained in mathematical terms, we’d say that the paramahamsas can correctly identify any number without requiring commas or other tools that enhance readability. This is quite difficult to do, for the gross senses have a debilitating effect on one’s consciousness and mindset. A person who is truly liberated, one who is devoted to God and understanding His true nature, will be able to see everything, including large groups of living entities, in the proper context.

The paramahamsas are a rarity in this world. Therefore the Lord, through His incarnation, descends to earth and acts as a placeholder, a comma if you will. He performs activities, instructs fellow members of society, and displays great feats of strength to show everyone just what God looks like, what His nature is, and where the highest pleasure in life can be found. Though the number of incarnations is too great to count, the Shrimad Bhagavatam and other Vedic texts give us a list of the primary ones. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is considered the fountainhead of all incarnations, but this doesn’t mean that worship of God is performed exclusively through worship of Krishna. Rather, one can worship Lord Rama, Narasimhadeva, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Balarama, Vishnu, or any other non-different form of the Lord and be equally benefitted.

Krishna's avataras Though the Lord comes to this earth to give the conditioned souls a clearer understanding of the nature around them, He is not contaminated by matter in any way. He acts just like a comma inside of the digits representing a number, allowing others to correctly identify the different aspects of the world around them. Whether the comma is there or not has no bearing on the comma or the number. In the same way, Krishna’s creation remains the same whether He is personally present or not. After all, God is everything, so His presence is felt inside of every single atom. The incarnation is the more visible form, a way to unmistakably decipher who is God and who isn’t. The material world is full of puffed up living entities who claim to be God, who is the ultimate enjoyer and the greatest order supplier. Through the activities of the incarnations, one can understand that such individuals are simply cheaters who are destined to repeat the cycle of birth and death for many, many lifetimes.

Not only does the Supreme Lord’s presence enhance the readability of the nature of this world, but so does the influence of His exalted devotees. These entities are essentially exceptions to the laws of nature and the rules pertaining to matter and spirit. Hence there is a difference between those who are devoted to God and those who are simply searching after the annihilation of misery. Matter is only detrimental when it is used for the wrong purposes. Again, this points to the misidentification that occurs at the time of birth. When matter is properly identified for what it is, an individual can know how to utilize it for their spiritual benefit. When matter is used for personal sense gratification, it is certainly very dangerous and detrimental to one’s spiritual progress. When it is used properly, it can become the source of liberation, a way to enlighten the conditioned soul.

Shrila Prabhupada An example often invoked by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada pertaining to this issue can help us better understand it. Say that someone is walking through a shopping mall and happens to drop some money or other possession of value on the floor. A gross materialist will walk past the money and pick it up. They are looking to enjoy matter, so they look at the money as a potential source of enjoyment, even though they know that the money doesn’t belong to them. The dry renunciate, one who has a loathing for matter, will look at the money as a great cause of pain. They see so much potential discomfort and heartache from picking up the money. In addition, their karma, the future reactions to their work, will be hurt by taking someone else’s property.

Only the devotee, the adherent to the true tenets of the Vedas, will view the money properly. A lover of Krishna will pick up the money and look for the rightful owner. The money is not good or bad, but rather a possession that is not being utilized properly. In a similar manner, the nature around us is simply there for us to use for God’s pleasure. It is all His property to begin with, so we have no rightful claim over it. If we are unable to utilize matter properly, then surely renunciation is a good idea, but renunciation by itself will not bring us the transcendental pleasure that we are looking for. Simple abstention from activity is not a source of happiness; otherwise every one of us would choose to remain in a permanent medically-induced coma. The nature of the spirit soul is to enjoy through activity.

Radha Krishna The purification of activity comes through acts of devotion. This discipline is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and it is the form of religion preached by the incarnations of Godhead and the exalted spiritual masters. The easiest way to practice this yoga today is to regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Though these are sound vibrations heard by the material senses, they come directly from the spiritual world. The sound of this sacred mantra, being non-different from the Person it addresses, acts just like the comma in helping us understand our position as eternal servants of the Supreme Lord. This sound will not only increase our level of intelligence, but it will also transport us back to the spiritual world, a place wherefrom we never have to return.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Class Envy

Hanuman "Whom are you lamenting for when you yourself are pitiable? Why do you pity the poor when you yourself have now been made poor? While in this body that is like a bubble, how can anyone look at anyone else as being worthy of lamentation?" (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.3)

Class envy forms the basis of much discord and discontent around the world. This has been true since the beginning of time, and upon closer examination, it is revealed that this conflict is unnecessary. No embodied being can be considered poor or rich in the larger scheme of things, so there is no justification for envy or pity based simply off one’s financial disposition. To help us understand this point more clearly, we can look to the wonderful teachings of Shri Hanuman.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

Lord Krishna What causes class envy? First, we must acknowledge that life on earth is miserable. This doesn’t mean that every single person is full of misery, but rather, the end of everything, the ultimate conclusion or result of all activity, is misery. Man’s mortality is proof enough of this point. Those who are not spiritually inclined or those who are unaware of the ultimate objective in life take to fruitive activity as their main business. This engagement is referred to as karma in Sanskrit, and there is a reason that the word translates to “fruitive activity” in English. Karma is work performed that has desired and undesired consequences. The results of this work are referred to as phalam, or fruits; hence the term fruitive activity. Regardless of a person’s religious affiliation, age, or place of birth, there is the penchant for performing fruitive activity.

So is karma bad? Depending on the angle of vision, karma can lead to positive or negative results. Material life is considered miserable because no result from karma can be positive enough to compare to the ultimate reward of salvation. In Sanskrit, salvation is referred to as apavarga, which is the elimination of fear, exhaustion, death, defeat, and bondage. Only Lord Krishna, or God, can deliver a person from these calamities. Apavarga not only removes the negative aspects of life on earth, but it also brings about the soul’s return to the spiritual world. The miseries of pavarga are only seen in the material world, a place where the soul interacts with matter. A life devoted exclusively to interaction with matter is considered miserable because no amount of adjustment, shaping, or accumulation of matter can lead to a positive result in the grand scheme of things. The issues of poverty and wealth serve as great examples in this regard.

Lord Krishna The wealthy are deemed to be living the high life. “They have all the money in the world. What need do they have to worry about anything? They drive fancy cars, live in gigantic houses, and have beautiful members of the opposite sex flocking around them.” This viewpoint leads to envy, which then leads to a loss of rationality. Class warfare starts when the non-wealthy seek to punish the wealthy simply because of their financial disposition. “Oh they can afford to pay more. If I had that much money, I surely wouldn’t have a problem spreading the wealth around.” The opposing viewpoint is pity, a mindset adopted by the wealthy. The “poor” are deemed to be suffering; they are viewed as living the low life. “I can’t imagine not having a car and having to worry about how I’m going to eat every night. I feel so bad for them. No one should have to live like that, especially in today’s world where everyone else is so wealthy.”

When these forces combine, you get conflict. The wealthy clash with the non-wealthy; the wealthy fight with the wealthy; and the non-wealthy even argue with the non-wealthy. Every person has their own idea of who is poor and who is rich, and based on these judgments, policies are made. Political campaigns run on the issues of class envy annually. This has been the practice in every country ever since there were elections. “Elect me and I’ll end poverty. I’ll bring back jobs. I’ll make the rich pay their fair share.”

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Bg. 2.11)

So what’s wrong with the mindsets of envy and pity? Aren’t the rich well-off? Shouldn’t the poor be pitied? According to high authority figures who follow the Vedic traditions, there is no reason to lament or envy anyone’s situation. The soul is eternal and unbreakable, while the body is taken to be a shell, a dwelling compared to a bubble, something which can burst at any moment. It doesn’t take much to break a bubble that forms on the water, and in a similar manner, the material body constantly goes through deterioration. As soon as a person is born, the dying process begins. Since everyone lives in one of these shells, how can any person be deemed better off than anyone else? One person may have great wealth, but once their bubble bursts, that wealth remains in the material world, where it gets disbursed and transformed into other objects of matter. A person may be very poor, but again, this is just a temporary condition. In fact, in the Vedic tradition, the highest class of men, the brahmanas, voluntarily accept an austere lifestyle. Fewer possessions and controlled eating allow the mind to better focus on areas of spirituality.

The other issue to consider is the law of karma. Not only are there consequences to our actions, but these reactions are distributed in the fairest possible way. Politicians will promise to take a fair share in taxes and then distribute the money to those in need, but this system is anything but fair. A politician is after votes, so their distribution of tax dollars is strategically targeted to garner the most votes in the next election. The system of karma doesn’t work this way. All the reactions that a person receives are completely fair. Once work is performed, the pending reactions are guaranteed to arrive, irrespective of the person’s character, parentage, bank balance, or physical makeup. In this way, we see that the wealthy and the poor are simply reaping the rewards and punishments of their past actions. If their dispositions are determined by karma, what need is there for pity or envy?

Tara with Vali The time when it is most difficult to avoid pity is right after a love one has died, as was seen with Tara, the wife of the powerful monkey fighter Vali. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, Shri Rama, a non-different expansion of the Supreme Lord, appeared on earth and played the role of a pious kshatriya prince. Searching for His kidnapped wife, Sita Devi, Rama forged an alliance with a monkey-king named Sugriva. Vali was Sugriva’s brother, but the two had hostilities dating back to a previous incident where Vali thought Sugriva had tried to nefariously usurp the kingdom from him. Because of this conflict, Sugriva was living in fear of Vali. After joining forces with Rama, Sugriva asked the Lord to help him regain his kingdom. Rama obliged and killed Vali while the monkey was engaged in a fight with Sugriva.

Seeing her husband lying dead on the ground, Tara gave way to excessive lamentation and grief. To help calm her down and alleviate her suffering, Shri Hanuman, Sugriva’s faithful emissary and legendary servant of Rama, stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. In the above referenced quote, we see that Hanuman is asking Tara why she is feeling pity for someone else when she herself is worthy of pity. Tara was viewing Vali as being poor since he was dead, but meanwhile, she had become poor by losing her husband. Though we are ourselves worthy of pity and lamentation due to our being trapped in a bubble-like body, there is still the propensity to lament the position of others. Here Tara was feeling sorry for her dead husband, but she understandably could be pitied by others for her disposition. This sheds light on a natural tendency of man. During times of economic trouble, polling agencies will often go out and ask the public what they feel about the economy. An answer commonly given is, “Oh I’m alright, but I’m really worried about my neighbor. I’m worried how they’ll survive in these tough economic conditions.” But if we think about it, if we don’t have too much difficulty getting by in tough situations, then surely other people must be the same way. This logical mindset goes against the natural urge to pity others, but it is based on intelligence.

Shri Hanuman Shri Hanuman’s statement makes perfect sense, but actually applying the principles in real life is a different story. The end of Hanuman’s statement reveals the root cause of our problems: the bubble-like body. Everyone who resides in a body which is like a bubble is deemed to be equally worthy of lamentation. The real pitiable condition is the repeated cycle of birth and death. The supreme spiritual science of the Vedas confirms that the soul transmigrates from one body to another through the process of reincarnation. This system is driven by karma, which is driven by activity with the desire for fruits. If we want to pity anything, we should pity this condition.

“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (Kunti Devi speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.25)

Lord Krishna Fortunately, there is a way out of this cycle. Those who think of God at the time of death are guaranteed to get moksha, or the release from the wheel of material existence [samsara]. The way to guarantee remembering God at the time of death is to start thinking about Him now. There’s no time like the present, so we should all remember the Lord by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Anyone who regularly chants this mantra and takes up the sublime engagement of devotional service will never have to worry about the influences of the bubble-like body again. By first elevating ourselves to a non-pitiable condition, we can then start to help our fellow man. Everyone is in need of this salvation, regardless of how much money they have in their bank account. God is the deliverer of the poor living entities who mistakenly take matter to be their best friend. Rama’s best friend is Hanuman, so by associating with him we can find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the supreme spiritual sky.